How the World Learns : The Great Courses: Professional

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Alexander W. Wiseman
  • Series: The Great Courses: Professional
  • 12 hrs and 25 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

America's blueprint for mass education has been followed across the globe - yet international student assessments show that achievement varies sharply, with the US and much of Europe typically scoring average at best. Not surprisingly, this state of affairs has sparked anxieties about an educational crisis. Adding even more fuel to the fire: many cite a growing disconnect between what schools teach and the needs of a rapidly changing market.
The problem, if there is one, is highly complex, and in these 24 thought-provoking lectures led by an associate professor of comparative and international education, you'll take a meaningful look at education around the world to understand why.
You'll go beyond prescriptions for quick fixes to engage in a detailed comparison of teaching methods and student achievement, from the focus on STEM instruction and the intent of morals education to the role of preschool and the importance of creativity. You'll discover why Finland and South Korea rank as the two best educational systems despite having diametrically opposed approaches and consider the unique challenges facing schools from America to South Africa.
You'll use internationally comparative data to identify strengths and weaknesses and to see how this information is used - and sometimes misused - to enact policies. The data and systems are not studied in a vacuum, however. Instead you'll explore how cultural, religious, socioeconomic, and historical contexts may influence these methods and whether one nation's best practice could backfire in another.
Along the way you'll contemplate questions about the goals of education and the ways teachers may help students reach them, from whether standardized testing is the best way to measure what a person is capable of to whether teachers should have a role beyond presenting academic content.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


If you are a teacher or parent who hates testing and does not like uniform tests to evaluate a child's progress compared to other students or a teacher's effectiveness in teaching, you will be delighted with the views of this professor.

If you believe that schools have no duty to exert --whatever it takes-- to help children overcome deficits caused by poor parenting and dysfunctional social conditions in ghetto neighborhoods you will find comfort in the views of this professor.

This professor thinks helping disadvantaged children borders on hopeless because of their culture and that schools should bear no blame of significance. This is unfortunate when twenty percent of American children fail to graduate from high school. His solution? Don't test.

He asserts blame goes first to the parents and secondarily to our society for children's failure in school. He assigns the third position of responsibility to a third party, the name of which he could not recall, and put public schools in the fourth position. He then opined that no significant responsibility was left by the time you get to schools.

The OECD finds that schools in the USA tied for 30th place in science and math when compared to 70 other nations. The International Student Assessment (PISA) ranked the USA schools as 27th among the 34 OECD countries.

He dismisses as irrelevant the fact that schools in some countries are functioning as many as 220 school days per school year while school in the USA usually are open only 180 days per school year. He assigns the difference in performance to a difference in culture. Perhaps he thinks our culture would not accept more school days. If so, he is wrong.

As a former school board member, I once caused the school system to solicit the views of parents. Many would have jumped at the opportunity to send their children to school for an extra forty days per year. Many wanted to save on summer daycare expense. In the USA when not in school most young children are in cramped day care facilities at great expense. The majority of parents have jobs outside the home. Many parents would gladly welcome more school days for financial reasons alone.

I eagerly awaited my Audible monthly credit so I could purchase this series of lectures. I thought it would suggest concrete measures to improve school systems – not just in the USA, but in the whole world. What I got was far from an application of the scientific method to perhaps the most pressing issue facing the world. How could this be?

The answer perhaps lies in the fact that the good professor is not a scientist. He is an English teacher who, while teaching in Japan, spent much the classroom time, by his own admission, teaching Japanese children to sing songs by the Beatles. While teaching poor children, principally of Mexican and Navajo ethnicity with poor language skills, he concentrated on teaching Macbeth. In his defense, Macbeth was part of the required curriculum, but such thinking is still part of the school problem. When English is a student's second language and the student is struggling, does it make sense to concentrate on Shakespeare?

Without being a scientist, he could have at least dispelled some of the myths that permeate our educational establishments such as that other nations routinely expel and fail to educate the low performing students while we educate all. It is not true. Some say the top countries use harsh treatment of students to obtain such lofty achievements. Is it true?

Corporal punishment was used in education since ancient times. Plato commented on it and the Old Testament has many references to it. Corporal punishment is a bad practice, but what has replaced it in public schools in the USA?

I once inspected a new high school. I looked in every classroom window. Almost every classroom had one or more students sleeping with their head down on their desk. Sleeping would not have been tolerated when I went to high school. Now teachers say they have no means to change the behavior of unmotivated students. They must just let them be.

In private schools detention outside of school hours and extra study is often used to set a wayward child back on an acceptable track. What methods are common in other nations? This professor never mentions that. Is punishment how other nations get their children to perform better than the USA norm? I doubt it, but I wish the professor had told us more.

His general explanation of the unique local culture is not enough of an explanation. If extreme harshness is what it takes for schools to do better then we might find our schools more acceptable than the ones that outperform ours.

This series of lectures was very disappointing. It sounded more like propaganda from a teachers union than a thoughtful search for best practices in public education.
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- Jim Fuqua "Jim"

Never have so many words said so little

How can a course this long contain so little content?

The author is too academic, yet provides very little information. He essentially keeps rephrasing his main point that everything must be considered in context. In other words, you really can't evaluate a school or school system because it is so influenced by society, families, etc. He then repeatedly uses this to make excuses for our failing schools.

The author spent a surprisingly small amount of time actually discussing international schools and approaches to education.

The author hardly said anything definitive - there was almost no useful information.

What a waste of an otherwise interesting topic...
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- Gregory "interested in medicine, fitness, and economics."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-24-2015
  • Publisher: The Great Courses